By Josephine Holgado
Your body will undergo many changes during pregnancy to accommodate another being inside your womb. Your different organ systems adapt to make sure that both you and your baby survive and complete the term without untoward incidence or complications. These changes are due to an increase in the production of hormones from the brain and other organs as well as mechanical pressures due to an enlarging uterus and other tissues.
If you liken your body to a house, then pregnancy is renovating your home because your family has to make room for a new member. God is the Architect, who created you in His own image and likeness. He assigned your brain as the foreman and your assistants are the other organs that will oversee the remodeling.
The hormones are the workers that carry out the orders of the foreman. Some are sent to remodel a room for the nursery, which is the uterus. Others are tasked to retrofit a new kitchen — your breasts — to prepare food, or milk, for the new member. The bigger house needs a more powerful pump to supply more water so it has to increase its capacity and power, just like what happens to every pregnant woman’s heart. Finally, the landscaping are the skin changes that happen when you get pregnant.
Your uterus undergoes changes in size, shape and position as the pregnancy progresses. It resembles an upside-down pear at conception. At seven weeks, the size of the uterus is like a large hen’s egg. It’s like the size of an orange at 10 weeks or approximately twice the size of a non-pregnant uterus. At 12 weeks, it is like a grapefruit. It becomes spherical or globular on the second trimester. During the last trimester, it becomes larger and more oval and rises out of your pelvis into the abdominal cavity.
The increase in the size of the uterus, as well as the growing baby inside it, puts a great demand on your body. It entails a lot of work and energy to sustain a life, moreso if there are two of you. Your heart has to pump more blood so that it reaches the placenta that supplies the needs of the baby. You have to breathe faster and deeper due to the enlarging uterus that limits your lung expansion. It helps, too, that your chest enlarges slightly.
You experience nausea and vomiting due to a rise in the hormone called human chorionic gonadropin (hCG), which is almost exclusively produced by the placenta during the first three months. These symptoms usually resolve at 14 to 16 weeks into the pregnancy when the hCG lessens. You may also get heartburn and belch often because food stays in your stomach longer. They may also be due to the relaxation of the ring-like muscular structure that guards the lower end of your esophagus to prevent backward flow of the contents of your stomach. At the later part of your pregnancy, you may get constipated because of the pressure on your rectum and lower part of the intestine.
Cravings, Aversions and Other Changes
Taste and food preferences also change throughout the pregnancy but the cause and mechanism is unknown. Some women have cravings or aversions to certain food during the first trimester. Others crave for sweet food during the second trimester but not salty or savory food. And there are those unusual ones who develop pica, or craving for strange foods or non-foods like dirt, clay, or cigarette butt. The latter may sometimes indicate an underlying physical or mental illness. Other researchers also have reported a heightened taste, odor and texture sensitivities to starch.
As the pregnancy progresses, you slowly gain weight due to the enlarging uterus, growth of the fetus and the placenta. Your breasts become larger so you need to get new bras about one to two cup sizes bigger or even more. Your torso also increases in diameter so you’ll need new clothes that fit you. Swelling of the feet is also common, partly because of the enlarging uterus that compresses veins and lymphatic drainage from the legs. Your foot can also grow by a half size or more on the average, so a new pair of comfortable shoes is in order. The enlarging uterus also presses on the urinary bladder so that it fills up with urine more quickly than usual and you’ll have the urge to urinate more frequently and immediately.
Your posture, balance and gait are also affected when you’re pregnant. You can blame these for lower- back pains, leg cramps, hip pain and fall injuries. About 64 percent of the falls happen during the second trimester and are usually associated with walking on slippery floors, rushing, or carrying an object so you need to be careful.
You will also have an increase in vaginal discharge, which is clear or whitish, but an unusual color or smell accompanied by vaginal itching and burning warrants investigation for infection.
Skin changes in pregnancy occur because the placenta produces a hormone that stimulates the cells that produce the dark brown pigment. A facial mask described as blotchy, brownish pigment termed melasma may appear on the forehead and cheeks. You will also observe a darkening of the skin around the nipples. A dark line usually appears along the middle of the abdomen. Sometimes, pink stretch marks may also be seen on the abdomen due to the rapid growth of the uterus and increased levels of adrenal hormones.
You may feel like a sumo wrestler as you grow bigger and bigger during your pregnancy so you can safely carry your baby inside you.
You may feel like Santa’s Rudolf, the red-nosed reindeer, as your nose becomes larger and redder so you can breathe more air into your lungs.
You may feel like your feet belong to a giant creature so you can anchor yourself better as you walk daily.
Don’t be afraid. Don’t worry. Be happy!
Pray for strength, beauty and balance because you are blessed to carry a new being inside your womb.
Carry yourself like a beauty queen who feels sexy and comfortable with her body.
Smile like a toothpaste model whose face radiates with loveliness both inside and out.
Walk like a graceful princess as your hips sway to the music that you hear in your heart.
Take good care of yourself. Know your body. Adapt yourself to the normal physiological changes. However, learn to recognize any deviation from the normal. It may pose a risk not just on you as the mother but on your baby as well.
This article is an excerpt from Your Newborn is a Blessing by Dr. Josephine Holgado
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